Santa Clara County, Calif., District Attorney Drops Assault Charges Against Former Lab Worker Accused of Reusing Needles
Santa Clara County, Calif., Deputy District Attorney Dale Sanderson on Monday filed a motion to dismiss assault charges filed against Elaine Giorgi, a former health care worker at SmithKline Beecham's medical lab in Palo Alto, Calif., who was accused of reusing disposable needles that had possibly been used to draw blood from people with HIV, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Giorgi was originally charged with two counts of "an assault that is likely to cause great bodily injury," but Sanderson dismissed those charges because of a recent California Supreme Court decision that narrowed the legal definition of "likely." The state Supreme Court opinion requires that prosecutors prove that Giorgi's reuse of the needles "posed a substantial risk of causing great injury, rather than a potential risk," and Sanderson said he did not think the evidence against Giorgi was strong enough to convict her under the new definition. Giorgi on Monday pleaded no contest to a felony charge of illegally disposing of medical waste and a misdemeanor charge of falsifying medical records. She will be sentenced on July 18 and could face up to five years in jail. State officials also required SmithKline to pay a $102,000 fine (Seyfer, San Jose Mercury News, 6/5). Giorgi worked for SmithKline from June 1997 to March 1999 and admitted reusing disposable needles, although there is "some evidence" that she rinsed the needles in a hydrogen peroxide solution before reusing them. SmithKline sent letters to the 3,700 patients whose blood was drawn by Giorgi "encouraging them to be retested for HIV and hepatitis," but said that the odds that anyone contracted either virus were "low" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.